I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak on the report. I commend the Chairperson, Deputy O’Dowd, and the rest of the Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport on their work in holding hearings on accessibility to public transport and presenting us, as Deputy O’Dowd noted in his introduction, with the “experiences of disadvantage, exclusion and unequal treatment” endured by citizens with disabilities, which is a significant cohort of Irish society. When reading the report, I was struck by the comment of our colleague, Senator Dolan, who represents the Disability Federation of Ireland, in late 2017 that people with disabilities “do not have their basic right to free movement”. That is a profound statement on the level of public transport and all other types of transport in the country.
Deputy Broughan recently asked the Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh, to report on the number of higher education access route (HEAR) places offered in universities and colleges here each year. According to AccessCollege.ie the “Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) is a college and university scheme that offers places on reduced points and extra college support to school leavers from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds who are resident in the Republic of Ireland. HEAR has been set up by a number of colleges and universities, as evidence shows that socio-economic disadvantage can have a negative effect on how well a student does at school and whether they go on to college.